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Fargo man ends up buying his childhood home following a fluky phone call at work

Forum Communications kicks off "Home Stories," an opportunity to share how homes can shape our lives. Mike McCormick tells the story of the home that is part of his DNA.

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Mike McCormick proved you can come home again after purchasing his childhood home in south Fargo.
David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — It doesn't take much to imagine what the front yard of this quiet south Fargo home looked like all those years ago. Kids' bikes might be strewn about the lawn, ditched by frenzied young riders looking for the next best thing to do as they tried to squeeze every drop out of the too short North Dakota summer.

Call it "The Wonder Years," if you like. Mike McCormick calls it his life.

“See those trees over there? They’re huge now, but we’d play football and they were so small they’d be our defenders,” McCormick says of those days in his childhood neighborhood.

But the 62-year-old isn’t just randomly strolling down memory lane, in this case Fargo’s 17th Street South. He lives there. McCormick is back in his childhood home — and he owes it to a fluky, random phone call on his birthday.

Woman hand holds wooden house in the form of heart against the sun
This is the first installment in Forum Communications "Home Stories" where we invite you to share the story of the place you live.
bodnarchuk / Getty Images / iStockphoto

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Home stories

McCormick shares his story in the first of what we hope will be many installments of “Home Stories,” a chance for you to share what makes your home special.

What makes up a home story?

  • Is it a multigenerational home that's been handed down through the family?
  • Do you think it's haunted? 
  • Does it have unusual decor?
  • If the walls could talk, what would they say? 

If you have an idea for “Home Stories," email Tracy Briggs at tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com .

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The house at the edge of town

The house Mike McCormick once, and now, calls home, was built by his father, uncle and brother in 1959 when his mother was pregnant with him. It was fire engine-red and built at the edge of town.

“At the time, this was the farthest west,” McCormick says. “I mean, my backyard was farmer Johnson's field and he farmed right up to our backyard. And I remember as kids we'd be sitting here and he'd come by with his big, old tractors.”

The McCormick home was among the first to be built on the young block near Lewis and Clark Elementary School.

“It was a brand-new neighborhood. So when it started filling in, it was kids galore. It ranged everywhere from toddlers to teenagers,” McCormick remembers. “I bet you just about every one of these houses had three to four kids in there, so it was a lot of fun.”

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The McCormicks upped the neighborhood average with seven kids. Mike is No. 5, followed by two younger brothers with whom he shared a room.

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Mike McCormick as a freshman at Fargo South High during the time he first lived at 1737 17th St. S. in a neighborhood that was full of activity and children.
Contributed / Fargo South High School yearbook

“The prize was sleeping downstairs because we could sneak out to hang out with our friends,” he says with a laugh.

Despite sneaking out of the home as a teenager, McCormick wasn’t overly eager to move out of the home for good. He stayed there until he was 23, eventually moving to San Diego. His parents ended up selling the family home a couple of years later in 1984. Then after getting married and having children, McCormick chose to move back home to Fargo, when dozens of years later in 2006, fate would step in.

'No way!'

McCormick was working at a construction company when he took a call from a Fargo family looking to remodel their bathroom.

“They gave me their address, 1737 17th St. S., and I was like, ‘No way! That’s the house I grew up in!’ McCormick says.

The homeowner, who had purchased the home from the person who bought it from Mike’s father, booked McCormick for the job. He still remembers walking in the home again to begin the remodel.

“It was really cool to look around here. They put baby blue cabinets here (in the kitchen) and I thought, ‘What the heck for?’” McCormick recalls. “But not much had changed.”

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Mike McCormick first went back to his childhood home while working on a remodeling job for the owners at the time.
David Samson / The Forum

Outdoors, the home had been improved with permanent siding and landscaping. McCormick was impressed enough that when he finished the job he told the owners, “If you’re ever interested in selling, I’d love the first opportunity to buy it.”

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He didn’t think much of it until two years later on Jan. 28, 2008.

“I remember because it was my birthday. They asked me if I was still interested in buying the home, because they were looking to sell,” he says.

They worked out a deal and McCormick was ready to move back home. But he says the purchase wasn't just nostalgic.

“The real reason why I wanted to buy it is because my dad was getting up in age. And I figured that instead of putting him into a nursing home, I wanted to bring them into the house. And if he had dementia or anything else like that, he would have a place that he would be familiar with,” McCormick says.

Henry McCormick never did move back in, but Mike says he seemed to appreciate that his son brought the home he had built back into the family, where it’s been a frequent gathering spot for all of the siblings.

HomeStory1
Mike McCormick found this old bank slip containing his parents' names and address when he started remodeling the kitchen of his childhood home. His parents had sold the home in 1984 and it had two other owners until McCormick bought the house in 2008. Finding the slip was a reminder of the days his family of origin lived in the south Fargo home that he now owns.
David Samson / The Forum

“It’s really pretty cool because it feels familiar for everybody. After Dad's funeral, everyone was here and they were kind of horsing around. I said, ‘Excuse me, but this isn't our mom and dad's house anymore. This is my house and knock it off!’” he says with a big laugh.

Currently, one of McCormick’s sons lives in the home with him. Perhaps the next generation to purchase the home? Maybe. Maybe not.

For now though, McCormick is happy living in his boyhood home — 43 of his 62 years have been spent here.

The home is no longer fire engine-red. It’s pale yellow. And it’s no longer on the western edge of town. It’s closer to the center of town.

But it’s a home full of heart for Mike McCormick — and living proof that, indeed, you can go home again.

“Heck yeah, you can.”

Tracy Briggs is a News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 30 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
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